A Year Later: Examining the Success of a Sixth Form Social Space

ECP_RGSHW Sixth Form Project

In January (2024) we returned to the Royal Grammar School, High Wycombe. It was time for a 12-month defects inspection of the Sixth Form social space that we had created. Nestled within the undercroft of the Queens Hall, was an unconventional setting. But the challenges were not obstacles; they were opportunities for innovation.

The Sixth Form at any school is an aspirational year for younger students, it’s the pinnacle year of their school life. For schools themselves, it can also be a revenue generating year that attracts more government monies.

At the Royal Grammar School, their Sixth Form facilities were disjointed, housed in various locations across the site. The school wanted to change this. They wanted to create a cohesive Sixth Form centre for their students, and attract new students from other schools.

We were invited to meet with the school via Neville Special Projects, the main contractor. Prior to our introduction, the school had already looked at several options for creating the desired space. Some of these were even going into planning for new buildings on site. However, all these options were proving unaffordable.

A New Cohesive Space

Andrew Southey, Director of ECP and Chartered Architect, undertook a site review and identified the potential of the undercroft area of the Queens Hall. It was a partly enclosed unheated space where students would shelter from the bad weather. But with 2-walls and a roof, Andrew’s vision saw it as a cost-effective large space that could be upgraded. This bold approach was met by an enthusiastic Headmaster, Phil Wayne. He was happy to have a different feel to the new space compared to the historic nature of the rest of the estate.

The final result produced a ‘high-street café feel’ that doubles as a meeting / conference space. This is thanks to its quality Verco Furniture and large multi-media screen. The space can accommodate various configurations, whilst maintaining comfort and functionality for all. The creation of this Sixth Form space was just the first phase in the overall project. Since it’s creation, it has proven to be well-utilised by the Sixth Form students and staff alike.

We conducted the 12-month inspection alongside the school’s Estate Manager and Neville Special Projects. Even with the space now becoming an area of bustling student gatherings, the inspection identified only a few minor decorative issues that needed to be rectified. It is a great testament to the vision, planning and execution we put into any project.

Phase 2 – The Study Area Transformation

Taking advantage of the visit, we also reviewed the second phase of the project that was completed in October 2023. This phase involved the conversion of classrooms and office spaces into a more formal study area. Once again this was for the Sixth Form students.

Whilst some finishing touches remain, such as wall graphics and display boards that are pending, the area is already being used. Together, this has delivered what the school was intending, which was to have new dedicated spaces for Sixth Form students in the one area.

Future Plans

Like many of the schools we work with, we’ve been asked to support the Royal Grammar School with additional projects. By doing so we can further contribute to the school’s commitment to providing an optimal learning environment.

Looking now at a wider site masterplan with them, we are working to enhance safeguarding measures, and improve the overall student and visitor experience upon entering the school premises. We are also looking at the remodelling and refurbishment of specialist teaching facilities. We’ll be sharing more on these projects when possible.

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